Based on a popular long-running New Zealand comic strip by cartoonist Murray Ball, Footrot Flats showcases the kind of gentle laconic humour the Kiwis do so well.
In the heart of rural NZ, Wal Footrot (voiced by comedy legend John Clarke of Fred Dagg fame) – the proud owner of 400 acres of swampland – is shearing his sheep with his usual flair, aided by the delicate hand of close friend Cooch (Peter Hayden).
The mainstay of the farm and the semi-narrator of the film is the super-intelligent Dog (voiced by Peter Rowley), who has been with Wal ever since he arrived as a young puppy from the nightmare of the Taranga Cats Home.
But there’s a fly in the ointment in the shape of Wal’s next-door neighbours, the mean, sneaky Irish Murphy (Peter Hayden again) and his splinters-off-the-old-block sons, Hunk (Marshall Napier) and Spit (Brian Sergent).
Irish zips around the countryside in a high-powered black helicopter and helps himself to other people’s livestock. The Murphy family make sure their own land is well and truly off-limits to others, and have their property guarded by a ferocious set of man-eating pigs, a ferocious set of man-eating dogs, and a downright ferocious rat and his gang – known as Vernon and the Vermin – who don’t mind what they eat.
The villainous Murphys are a permanent thorn in Wal’s side, but the All Blacks selector is in town, and if Wal can impress him with some snazzy play, he could win glory for his country. More importantly, he could also impress the love of his life, local hairdresser, Cheeky Hobson (voiced by Fiona Samuel).
Naturally, while everyone’s attention is distracted, the Murphys go out on one of their “stag” nights and swipe Cooch’s prize deer.
The real charm of this film lies in the small incidents, jokes and relaxed colloquial dialogue which highlight the individual characters.
Sadly, creator and director Murray Ball and actor John Clarke died within a month of each other in early 2017.
Cheeky Hobson / Pongo (voice)
Cooch Windgrass / Irish Murphy (voice)
Aunt Dolly (voice)
Billy T. James
Spit Murphy (voice)
Hunk Murphy (voice)
Rugby Commentator (voice)